The city of Edinburgh wears its history with pride. The capital of Scotland is a mixture of medieval and Georgian architecture that simultaneously carries the vibrant energy of the area’s rich history and oozes culture and charm.
If you like cities that seamlessly blend the old and the new, visiting Edinburg can be a truly unforgettable experience. So read on to find out where to stay in Edinburgh and what to do when you get there!
The 3 Best Parts of Edinburgh
Edinburgh is not among Europe’s largest cities, but it sure packs a punch. It has something for everyone — medieval architecture, museums, world-class universities, and amazing pub culture that will win over the pickiest traveler.
Check out the three main areas we chose where you can stay in Edinburgh and be close to all the important sights and the best pubs:
- Old Town: The perfect choice for tourists who’d like to explore Edinburgh’s medieval past and get lost in its cobbled streets where there’s a traditional pub waiting at every corner.
- New Town: Ideal neighborhood for exploring the city’s modern Georgian architecture, as well as enjoying upscale restaurants and staying at more expensive hotels. Also, great for people who want to be surrounded by lots of urban greenery and parks.
- Leith: This hip area by the Old Port has tons of cool places you can visit to recharge. Also great for people looking for cool, alternative spots in the city. Here you can also enjoy excellent seafood restaurants by the waterfront and go bar hopping.
Where to Stay in Edinburgh: Best Areas & Hotels
Scotland’s capital is a truly captivating city that seems to beg to be discovered. It’s a small capital that offers a warm welcome to tourists with its mysterious, old-time charm and the creative chaos of modern city life.
Edinburgh’s Old Town core is a historic district that dates back centuries. It comprises the very heart of the city, and its medieval architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and iconic landmarks make it a very desirable accommodation option.
If you want to immerse yourself in this city’s history and culture, this is where you want to stay. From budget-friendly hostels to luxury hotels, it offers, by far, the best accommodation options out of all the areas we’ll be covering today.
The New Town is adjacent to Old Town. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a very desirable residential and central area of Edinburg.
Packed with elegant Georgian architecture, it stands in stark contrast with the medieval charm of Old Town.
Accommodation options in New Town are similar to Old Town, mostly comprised of upper-midrange and luxury hotels. And then there’s Leith, the hip, rebellious part of Edinburgh, situated on its north side.
It has a distinct character as a former port area, and nowadays, it offers a creative and eclectic atmosphere where you can find a thriving culinary scene alongside numerous seafood restaurants, as well as LGBTQ-friendly trendy bars and cafes.
Accommodation options in Leith are not as varied or as frequent as in the Old and New Towns and are mostly within the mid to luxury price range.
Each area — Old Town, New Town, and Leith — has its own unique appeal, and the choice of accommodation depends on your budget and the experiences you seek.
1. Edinburgh Old Town
The old core of modern Edinburgh, Old Town, has retained a large part of its medieval streets and Reformation-era buildings to this day, making it a delight to stroll through.
If you can picture ancient architecture, narrow lanes, cobblestone streets, and an abundance of pubs and live music joints when you think of Edinburgh, this is where you’ll find them.
Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the King’s official Scottish residence, are some of the most noteworthy attractions in the Old Town.
They’re connected by the Royal Mile, the main roadway in this part of the city, comprised of a succession of streets, that got its name for being the traditional route of monarchs in ages past.
The Royal Mile, alongside Princes Street in Edinburgh’s New Town, is the busiest tourist street in the city. The Old Town is home to some of the best traditional pubs, such as the Devil’s Advocate and Sheep Heid Inn.
Foodies and tourists searching for craft shops and independent boutiques should visit the Grassmarket area within this neighborhood.
For a proper night out in Edinburgh, visit the Cowgate, which is home to bars, nightclubs, and, in general, plenty of places to hear live music, including the well-known live music venue Sneaky Pete’s.
And if the hustle and bustle of the Old Town ever get too much, you can get lost in the vast expanses of Holyrood Park, a 640-acre hilly park adjacent to the Holyrood Residence. Within the park, you can easily climb the peak of the extinguished volcano Arthur’s Seat for breathtaking views of the city.
Accommodation in the Old Town is generally expensive because it’s one of the most central areas of Edinburgh. Most of the accommodation options range between mid-range and luxury hotels.
Things to Do
- The Royal Mile is a set of streets, a small area within the Old Town, that connects two royal residences (the Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House). Filled with historical buildings and cute shops and cafes, it’s a great place to go for a walk and experience old Edinburgh.
- Edinburgh Castle is a historic castle built in the 12th century on the massive volcanic rock Castle Rock. Fans of medieval history or just castles, in general, will have a field day here. You can visit the castle’s Great Hall or take guided tours that do re-enactments from important events of the castle’s history.
- The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of the UK monarchy in Scotland, standing proudly at the end of the Royal Mile. It’s a must-see for admirers of the Royal Family. It’s open for visitors throughout the whole year (tickets required), featuring collections of items and memorabilia and exhibitions from the family’s personal collection, as well as royal rooms for visitors.
- Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat are great natural spaces within Edinburgh where you can unwind and enjoy a bit of greenery. You can hike, take bike rides, or just climb the peak of Arthur’s Seat and enjoy the sun setting over Edinburgh.
- Cowgate is a street in the Old Town brimming with bars, pubs, and clubs popular with locals and tourists alike. One of them is Sneaky Pete’s, a popular local nightclub venue for live alternative music. Another is Monkey Barrel Comedy, a beloved comedy club where Edinburgh residents like to unwind on weekends.
Where to Eat
- The Milkman is a great spot if you want to have brunch (waffles or avocado toast anyone?) and coffee in the middle of your city exploration. It has a very relaxed, welcoming atmosphere where you can sip premium coffee blends and plan your next place to visit in Edinburgh.
- The Edinburgh Larder is an artisan cafe and another great brunch spot in the city. Here you can try traditional recipes like Eggs Benedict, or the signature Full Scottish Breakfast. Trust us — you won’t regret it!
- The Devil’s Advocate is a popular pub for whiskey lovers. It serves more than 300 whiskey varieties, as well as cocktails, burgers, and other types of pub food.
- Sheep Heid Inn is your best bet if you want to experience a traditional Scottish pub dating back to the 14th century. The Inn also offers a large selection of Scottish whiskies, regional beers, ciders, and traditional Scottish dishes like haggis and neeps.
- The Grain Store is a traditional restaurant that has characteristic rustic decor. Here you can find typical Scottish dishes, and locally sourced seafood paired with great wine or cider, and savor it by candlelight.
Old Town Budget Hotels
- CoDE Pod – The CoURT is a hostel situated in the heart of Old Town, less than a mile away from Edinburgh Castle, and very close to attractions like the Royal Mile and the National Museum of Scotland. The rooms are shared in dormitory style. The hostel provides a 24-hour front desk, and there’s also breakfast every morning for those of you who want to start the day with enough fuel.
- High Street Hostel is another hostel located in the center of Old Town. It’s set in a building from the 16th century, just a few streets off the Royal Mile. It offers single-sex and mixed dormitories with shared bathrooms. There’s free Wi-Fi in the lobby and storage for bikes and luggage. There’s a self-service kitchen if you want to cook and save some money on food. There’s also a party lounge with a pool table, making it a great place if you want to socialize with other travelers during your hostel stay.
Old Town Mid-Range Hotels
- ibis Edinburgh Centre South Bridge – Royal Mile is а great three-star budget hotel in the center of Old Town. You’re maybe already familiar with the ibis hotel brand — a budget-friendly, but comfortable option for the frequent traveler. Rooms have private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, a TV, and tea and coffee facilities. Edinburgh Castle and Grassmarket are only 9 minutes walking distance, while Holyrood Park is 15 minutes away.
- Cityroomz Edinburgh is a three-star hotel just a few miles from Prince’s Street, on the edge of Old Town. It’s a good value-for-your-money option; all rooms have free Wi-Fi, TV, a private bathroom, and city views.
Old Town Luxury Hotels
- The Witchery is a classy (but also pretty expensive) five-star hotel near Princes Street Gardens. Staying in this hotel will make you feel like a late 18th-century monarch or possibly a Romantic writer like Shelley or Byron. Come for the aristocratic feel, stay for the hearty breakfast — included in the price!
- Waldorf Astoria is a five-star hotel right next to Princes Street. If you’re looking for luxury, this hotel will deliver — it offers an indoor swimming pool, spa, sauna, gym, modern leisure club, stunning views of Edinburgh Castle, and an award-winning restaurant called Grazing.
2. Edinburgh New Town
Standing in sharp contrast to the Old Town’s medieval winding streets and alleys with its more modern open grid layout, New Town offers tourists another perspective of Edinburgh.
The neighborhood embodies the Georgian architecture style that was popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as a response to the city’s explosive population growth and the need for more housing.
New Town is the perfect place for those who want to experience an exciting fusion of dining, shopping, and modern architectural styles without ever leaving the city center.
The famous Princes Street is a must-see for visitors, especially shopping enthusiasts, because of the abundance of household names, luxury retailers, and independent local boutiques. Adjacent to it is Princes Street Gardens, a beautiful public park in the middle of the city.
And if that’s what floats your boat, this neighborhood offers yet another serene oasis near the park called St. Andrew Square Garden.
It’s a beautiful little haven in the middle of the busy city center where you get to collect your thoughts and stroll in quiet, enjoying the plants and flowers. The Square also serves as a venue for numerous events all year long, such as the Film Fest in the City.
The combination of broad sidewalks and streets with lush, green public areas is unique to this part of town and has its own kind of beauty that blends the urban with the natural.
Some of Edinburgh’s hippest and most exciting shops, cocktail bars, eateries, and cafes are located in the New Town. One example is The Standing Order, a former bank building converted into a popular, hip pub.
The accommodation types and prices in New Town are similar to the Old Town, although there are fewer budget hotels. Here, you can find mostly mid-range to upper-mid-range and luxury hotels.
Things to Do
- Princes Street Gardens is the park adjacent to Princes Street. It’s one of the most important urban parks in Edinburgh that separates Old Town from New Town, and a true green oasis for those of you looking for some peace of mind amidst the bustle of the city. Visitors should check out the Scott Monument located on the East side of the park. It’s a spirelike Victorian monument honoring the writer Sir Walter Scott that has 287 steps to the top. Also, check out the floral clock located on the west side of the park.
- Scottish National Gallery contains Scotland’s national art collection but also includes lots of European masterpieces and seasonal exhibitions. There’s also a cute cafe you can relax in after your long museum walk.
- The Georgian House is perfect for architecture enthusiasts. It’s a restored townhouse that’s very much a time capsule, offering a unique glimpse into the lives of those who once lived there. The house’s grand staircases and luxurious interior will immediately transport you back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
Where to Eat
- If you want a good breakfast on the go, Victor Hugo Deli is a fantastic choice. You can choose from many breakfast options and combinations, like brioche rolls and pastrami sandwiches. If you do have a bit of time to spare in the morning to savor your food, sit outside and enjoy the beautiful views of the castle.
- Edinburgh Street Food Market on Leith Street is a foodie’s paradise, bringing together cuisines from around the globe. You can try Spanish, Peruvian, Mexican, Korean, Italian, Scottish, and many more types of street food you’d have a hard time finding anywhere else. There is something for everyone’s palate, including vegetarian, vegan, halal, and gluten-free options.
- Duck & Waffle is a popular restaurant in St. James Quarter that makes delicious and super-creative dishes. Their signature duck and waffle dish is to die for.
- Copper Blossom is a very interesting place located on George Street and one of the best cocktail bars in the city. Its garden-inspired aesthetic will look good on your Instagram feed for sure, but you’ll be even more enchanted by the impressive cocktail list.
New Town Budget Hotels
- CoDE Co-Living – The LoFT is a hostel-type of accommodation just a short walk from Princes Street. It offers dormitory-style rooms with shared bathrooms. There’s also a shared kitchen if you want to save money by not eating out, as well as a communal area where you can unwind after a long day of exploring the city. Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town are just 15 minutes away from the hostel by foot.
- Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel is a hostel found less than a mile from Princes Street and Edinburgh Rail Station. While you can cook your own breakfast in a shared kitchen area, the hostel also has a lovely cafe and restaurant on its premises. Most rooms are dormitories for six people and have shared bathrooms. But you can also ask for a triple room with a private bathroom.
New Town Mid-Range Hotels
- Parliament House Hotel is a three-star hotel in the city center, next to Princes Street. All rooms have a private bathroom, free Wi-Fi, a TV, and a minibar. Staying here gives you access to a traditional bistro that serves Scottish breakfast each morning. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can also ask for a continental breakfast.
- Britannia Edinburgh Hotel is a three-star hotel located just 15 minutes away from Princes Street. Rooms have free Wi-Fi, a TV, and a private bathroom. Guests can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the hotel’s on-site restaurant.
New Town Luxury Hotels
- The Balmoral Hotel is a five-star luxury hotel in a building from 1902 near Princess Street. Named after the famous Balmoral Castle, the hotel offers true aristocratic luxury. It has an indoor pool, gym, sauna, spa, and spacious rooms with marble bathrooms, but its actual selling point is its marvelous views of Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town.
- Gleneagles Townhouse is a five-star hotel on St Andrew’s Square. It has a fitness, spa, and wellness center, concierge services, and a 24-hour available desk. The rooms are super-classy, and decorated with antique furniture. The hotel has a bar and restaurant serving British and Scottish cuisine. Breakfast is included in the price.
Leith is one of the most diverse, exciting, and modern neighborhoods in Edinburgh.
It’s perfect if you want to do bar hopping, since the area is full of waterfront bars and pubs like Teuchters Landing and Roseleaf Bar Cafe, and breweries like Innis & Gunn Leith Brewery Taproom and Moonwake Beer Co.Brewery & Taproom.
It’s a hip and diverse area of Edinburgh that’s both edgy and relatable.
On the streets of Leith you can see young creatives, families, and old locals forever in love with the neighborhood — a mix that embodies Leith’s quirky but immensely attractive vibe, something that you can’t find as easily in Old and New Town.
Leith Walk is a great place to start your exploration of this area. It’s the main shopping district that leads to Leith’s waterfront part.
You can find plenty of interesting stores there that sell vintage clothes, like the Epoca Vintage Clothing Shop, or wine by the case like Majestic Wine, as well as countless cafes and international food restaurants (Syrian, Mexican, Mediterranean — you name it!).
Because Leith encompasses a large area from Edinburgh’s waterfront, it has a strong maritime history. One of the biggest attractions is the Royal Yacht Britannia, while the area is also known for the historic port on the Firth of Forth, a fjord and an important conservation site.
Unlike Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns, Leith doesn’t have too many accommodation options. Most of them are in the mid-range, while budget and luxury options are pretty rare.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, it’s better to stay somewhere else and then come to Leith for walks and bar hopping on the waterfront.
Things to Do
- The Royal Yacht Britannia is one of Leith’s biggest attractions. It was a floating palace of Queen Elizabeth II for more than 40 years, but now it serves as a museum and doesn’t sail anymore. If you’re a fan of the British monarchy, you’ll love this, as it offers a fascinating, rare glimpse into how the Royal Family spent their time at sea. There’s also a Royal Deck Tea Room where you can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding area, drink tea and feel like the Queen or King of the United Kingdom.
- The Water of Leith Walkway is a 13-mile-long walkway through Leith that stretches parallel to the river. It offers a great way to explore the area by strolling or biking. You can even ride a horse on some parts of the trail! Some areas of the walkway are also wheelchair accessible.
- The Biscuit Factory was indeed a former biscuit factory until it was turned into a cultural spot. It’s a place for independent artists, musicians, pop-up markets, and all kinds of creative activities. It’s great if you’re looking for an alternative space with something new happening every day. Check out the website to see what’s currently happening.
Where to Eat
- Nobles Bar & Restaurant is a beautiful Victorian cafe bar, first opened in 1896. If you’re looking for fresh drinks and fresh food always made with local ingredients, this is the place. It’s perfect for both brunch and evening meals.
- The Ship on The Shore is another 19th-century restaurant in Edinburgh, opened in 1834. It operates both as a tavern and a coffee house and serves predominantly seafood. It’s particularly great for couples, as it has a strong romantic feel. A bonus feature is the outdoor seating, where you can just chill and enjoy the magic of Leith.
- The King’s Wark is a waterfront inn that used to be a royal residence, a private armory for James I, and also a plague hospital (sorry, we didn’t mean to spoil your appetite with the last one). Nowadays it’s far from a plague hospital, it’s a popular food joint beloved both by locals and tourists for its sustainably-derived seafood, ales, and creative Scottish cuisine.
Leith Budget Hotels
- Adelphi Hotel is a two-star hotel in a Georgian townhouse. It’s a bit far from the center, but it’s a perfect choice for those who plan to go to Edinburgh by car. You get a mid-range hotel for the price of a budget one. All rooms have free Wi-Fi, private bathrooms, a TV, and panoramic views from Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat, which is a 30-minute walk from the hotel.
- A-Haven Townhouse Hotel is a two-star hotel with free parking and Wi-Fi in the lounge area. The rooms have en suite bathrooms. Couples seem to particularly like this place because they rated it really highly on Booking.
Leith Mid-Range Hotels
- Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh – Leith Waterfront is a three-star hotel offering everything you need for a comfortable stay in Scotland. For instance, there’s free Wi-Fi in all the rooms, air conditioning, coffee and tea-making facilities, and a private bathroom. If you’re a freelancer or a digital nomad, there’s also a work desk for your laptop.
- Ocean Mist Leith is a four-star hotel near Edinburgh’s Old Port. It’s a beautiful hotel decorated in maritime fashion that’ll make you feel like you’re on a ship, minus the claustrophobia. All rooms are air-conditioned and have free Wi-Fi, a terrace, and a private bathroom. If you want breakfast, the hotel offers a continental breakfast and a buffet each morning.
Leith Luxury Hotels
- Malmaison Edinburgh is a four-star hotel located on the banks of the Leith River. It has a gym, free parking, and a stylish bar. The hotel is well connected with Edinburgh’s center, perfect if you want to explore the city on foot. The rooms are spacious and have free Wi-Fi, TV, and private bathrooms. The hotel’s restaurant serves classic British cuisine made with local produce.
So, Where Should You Stay in Edinburgh?
You should decide where to stay in Edinburgh based on your preferences and the experience you seek. Old Town, New Town, and Leith each have a unique charm.
|🏰 Most Historic Area||Old Town|
|🥂 Most Luxurious Area||New Town|
|🍽️ Best for Shopping & Dining||Leith|
Old Town is perfect for Edinburgh first-timers and people who want to spend more time exploring the city’s rich history, visiting famous sites like Edinburgh Castle, and strolling down the Royal Mile.
Also, Old Town offers many different accommodation options, making it a good choice for travelers with both large and smaller pockets.
New Town will be a good fit for people who want a more upscale, sophisticated experience because it has tons of stylish restaurants and shopping places. It also has some quiet spots, so it’s good for people who are seeking quieter environments within the city.
Accommodation options are similar to the ones in Old Town; most prices go from mid-range to expensive, although budget-tight travelers can still find some good hostel options too.
Leith, located to the north of the city center, is a good option if you seek more alternative spaces in your travels. This area has greatly transformed through time.
Formerly a historical port, now it’s a vibrant and trendy neighborhood with amazing seafood places, making it a great choice for pescatarians and seafood lovers.
So, as you can see, there’s something for everybody in Edinburgh. It’s up to you to choose and enjoy your stay there. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to Edinburgh today to see for yourself all this city has to offer!